Dear The Economist – it’s MY thinking space, not yours!

the_economist_thinking_space_campaign1

Yesterday I was sent an email from The Economist through their social communication agency We Are Social. The mail presented their latest campaign – Thinking Spaces. A campaign presenting a number of opinion leaders and their ‘Thinking Spaces’. One part of the campaign contains a social component where they’re asking bloggers to contribute with our own stories alongside those of the leading personalities already featured like movie director Claudia Llosa, musician Jamie Lidell and Spotify founder Daniel Ek among others.

The campaign piss me off cause they’re asking me to contribute with quite a lot of content and traffic generation without really giving anything back. On top of that it’s clear that Spotify is featured for more than one reason as there’s obviously a hidden marketing component where I’m asked for my favorite Spotify playlist. (I would know since I’m running a Spotify playlist site on the side)

Dear Economist, let me tell you a little bit about me and MY thinking space.

This is MY thinking space.
If you would have respected my thinking space you would have started this campaign entirely different. I don’t get why you have created a flash site when you could have integrated the entire campaign on a blog platform. You could then have written a series of posts explaining your campaign to people and in that post also publicly linked to the blogs you asked to participate. This way you would have given us credit before you actually ask us to give you credit. Now the actual campaign leaves out social contributors.

The questions then?
I don’t want to answer a set of question about my personality that fit’s your campaign mold. On top of that I don’t get what Spotify has to do with it? (of course I do since one of your ‘leaders’ is the Spotify founder Daniel Ek). Why didn’t you ask participant to crowdsource your questions for you? Or give us one single question. One single question would have challenged my creativity. Now you’re more or less asking for my resume and an entire novel.

When you do social campaigns – give something back before you ask for support!
If a campaign like this would come from a brand like Kiva, Unicef, The Red Cross, Amnesty or another aid organization I’d love to participate without getting anything back. But a commercial brand like yours, The Economist, has to do better. On the campaign blog I read: “The Economist might feature your own Thinking Space on the site, along with those of the original featured personalities.” That’s not enough for me! If you succeed with this link-bating campaign I’ll end up in a long list of blogs that I don’t know if I want to be associated with.

Why didn’t you think social for real?
I don’t see why you didn’t choose 50 bloggers from around europe and built the entire campaign around us instead? I bet the budget you paid for this campaign and that flash site would have covered it. You also have access to something we don’t – a paper. If you would asked us bloggers for a unique story and in return done a piece on our blogs in your paper rather than on a campaign site you would have gotten fantastic content, trust me! And if you don’t then why bother asking for my participation in your campaign.

All in all. It’s good that you’re trying to go social with your campaigns – but don’t act like the dinosaur brand you are – think smaller, think friendly, think like you’re one of us and think social.

Finally.

I get that I’ve contributed to the SEO & link-bating part of your campaign. That is of course if people don’t decide to link to this post with the title The Economist Thinking Space campaign then I’ll be the winner.

Now I need to get back to spending my summer in the best possible way.

Best regards from the Swedish archipelago.
Johan Ronnestam

ps. Some blogs obviously got hooked. So far these blogs have joined the campaign:

Bibliobibuli, Chewytha scratchynutz: Tribeca, Code is poetry, The Curious Brain, Creative Bits, Creativity Online, Eskimon, Geoffrey Dorne, Lasse’s Findings, Marty’s Musings, Moleskinerie, Neoplayground, Nicola Davies, Notcot.org, Not For Paper, QBN, RA Forum, RiotInc, Rubbishcorp, Shawn Blanc, Theendofdecember, This May Be It, Unseen Said, Viva La Network, We Are Pop Slags, Wink at creativity

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  • http://eskimon.wordpress.com/ eskimon

    Hej Johan,

    An interesting perspective on this campaign – and clearly different from my experience!

    Perhaps the difference is that you were asked to blog about it (always a silly idea), whereas I stumbled upon the site by accident, and just found it engaging.

    Sure, I was complimentary about the site in my post, but that’s because I was impressed by it (as I explain here: http://eskimon.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/thinking-space/). I didn’t expect anything in return for that post though – I just wanted to share something that I found interesting.

    However, I relate to your frustrations. If I’d been asked to blog about it, I probably wouldn’t even have written about it, let alone commended it.

    Brands (and agencies) need to produce content that people will choose to talk about of their own accord, not just pester them to talk about their stuff for the sake of it. Like you say, what’s the benefit to the blogger?

    I still think the core site is great, but I’m disappointed by this ‘request’ aspect, which seems to go against the spirit of the site (which I interpreted as creative inspiration).

    A great example of “what worked well, what could have been better”.

    Cheers

  • http://eskimon.wordpress.com/ eskimon

    Hej Johan,

    An interesting perspective on this campaign – and clearly different from my experience!

    Perhaps the difference is that you were asked to blog about it (always a silly idea), whereas I stumbled upon the site by accident, and just found it engaging.

    Sure, I was complimentary about the site in my post, but that’s because I was impressed by it (as I explain here: http://eskimon.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/thinking-space/). I didn’t expect anything in return for that post though – I just wanted to share something that I found interesting.

    However, I relate to your frustrations. If I’d been asked to blog about it, I probably wouldn’t even have written about it, let alone commended it.

    Brands (and agencies) need to produce content that people will choose to talk about of their own accord, not just pester them to talk about their stuff for the sake of it. Like you say, what’s the benefit to the blogger?

    I still think the core site is great, but I’m disappointed by this ‘request’ aspect, which seems to go against the spirit of the site (which I interpreted as creative inspiration).

    A great example of “what worked well, what could have been better”.

    Cheers

  • http://eskimon.wordpress.com/ eskimon

    Hej Johan,

    An interesting perspective on this campaign – and clearly different from my experience!

    Perhaps the difference is that you were asked to blog about it (always a silly idea), whereas I stumbled upon the site by accident, and just found it engaging.

    Sure, I was complimentary about the site in my post, but that’s because I was impressed by it (as I explain here: http://eskimon.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/thinking-space/). I didn’t expect anything in return for that post though – I just wanted to share something that I found interesting.

    However, I relate to your frustrations. If I’d been asked to blog about it, I probably wouldn’t even have written about it, let alone commended it.

    Brands (and agencies) need to produce content that people will choose to talk about of their own accord, not just pester them to talk about their stuff for the sake of it. Like you say, what’s the benefit to the blogger?

    I still think the core site is great, but I’m disappointed by this ‘request’ aspect, which seems to go against the spirit of the site (which I interpreted as creative inspiration).

    A great example of “what worked well, what could have been better”.

    Cheers

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  • http://wearesocial.net/ Melina Hägglund Alanko

    Hej Johan,

    Thanks for your honest assessment of the campaign (at least we’ve been successful in creating a debate!).

    It’s our hope that the Thinking Space will be a place where opinion leaders from all over Europe will share their way of thinking and how they get their ideas. Our belief is that your readers as well as new readers would have been interested in reading about the way you get your ideas, and the questions were meant to be a starting point to inspire. The link exchange element is designed so that bloggers’ spaces are displayed on other blogs that take part in the project, meaning everyone’s posts are exposed to a wider audience of people than just their own readers.

    Anyway – I’m sorry we didn’t solve the problem from your perspective, but I hope you can see our intentions were in good faith. It was good to get your feedback and keep on enjoying your summer!

    Med vänliga hälsningar,
    Melina

  • http://wearesocial.net Melina Hägglund Alanko

    Hej Johan,

    Thanks for your honest assessment of the campaign (at least we’ve been successful in creating a debate!).

    It’s our hope that the Thinking Space will be a place where opinion leaders from all over Europe will share their way of thinking and how they get their ideas. Our belief is that your readers as well as new readers would have been interested in reading about the way you get your ideas, and the questions were meant to be a starting point to inspire. The link exchange element is designed so that bloggers’ spaces are displayed on other blogs that take part in the project, meaning everyone’s posts are exposed to a wider audience of people than just their own readers.

    Anyway – I’m sorry we didn’t solve the problem from your perspective, but I hope you can see our intentions were in good faith. It was good to get your feedback and keep on enjoying your summer!

    Med vänliga hälsningar,
    Melina

  • http://www.ronnestam.com/ ronnestam

    Eskimon and Melina,

    Thanks for your comments. I’ll get right to them once my vacation slowly moves into a working type of thing. Until then, have the best of times.

  • http://www.ronnestam.com ronnestam

    Eskimon and Melina,

    Thanks for your comments. I’ll get right to them once my vacation slowly moves into a working type of thing. Until then, have the best of times.

  • http://www.architettisenzatetto.net/ rem

    Hi, I was contacted by a guy from We are social to be part of this campaign and I had the same impression of yours: is it a campaign for the Economist of for Spotify? And why using a stunning flash web site in which you can only say ohhhhhh and nothing else, whitout any chance to really interact with others? The company is named We are social but it does not seem to be very “social” in practice. I asked the guy these questions and he said the presence of Spotify was casual, just one of the many softwars used for sharing music on line and the decision of using Flash was not taken by them…

  • http://www.architettisenzatetto.net rem

    Hi, I was contacted by a guy from We are social to be part of this campaign and I had the same impression of yours: is it a campaign for the Economist of for Spotify? And why using a stunning flash web site in which you can only say ohhhhhh and nothing else, whitout any chance to really interact with others? The company is named We are social but it does not seem to be very “social” in practice. I asked the guy these questions and he said the presence of Spotify was casual, just one of the many softwars used for sharing music on line and the decision of using Flash was not taken by them…